Saturday, June 27, 2009

Lions and Elephants and Warthogs, Oh My!

I'm still here! Well, here being Uganda. I am no longer in Kabale. I am in Queen Elizabeth National Park for the time being. I shall explain all...
So, the past week has been great. Last Saturday, I went with Joab and Joan to Mbarara, about a two hour drive from Kabale, to his neice's give away ceremony. A give away is a pre-wedding ceremony where the bride's family formally recognizes the groom and his family as being part of the family. It felt a little like a wedding reception: there was an MC, entertainment (traditional musicians and dancers), and food- but not silverware :). All of the women present wore traditional dresses. It was very interesting, even though the entire thing was in Rukiga.
Sunday night, the team from Modesto came over for dinner. It was a fun afternoon, hanging out with the family, getting ready for the guests. I made the chipati- fried in a pan over a fire. It is also worth noting that there was another Spider Incident that night. I was just getting ready to "shower" when a spider crawled out from under my bucket of water. This time I just tipped the bucket over and drowned the hateful thing. So, I guess Joan was right: hot water is a very effective spider killer. The week was pretty normal, pretty routine, with the exception of friends! from home being here. I've really enjoyed seeing familiar faces around and being with friends. I spent a day working at the farm the school runs with the team from Modesto. It felt good to to some work where the results were immediately visible.
I've been having a great time with the kids at Akanyajuka (the orphanage). I think I enjoy teaching the middle (ages four and five) best. They are so adorable. Every morning before classes, they have a few minutes to share news with their classmates. The student with "news" comes up to the front, and says "Newsey-news" to which the others respond, "Tell us, tell us please." Usually the news is something like "Last night I ate beans an matoke for dinner." Shocker- you eat beans and matoke every night! So yeah, they are a lot of fun. The girls from the Modesto team came and visited the other day to play with the kids. We were hanging out, having a good time, when a little guy named Brian crawled into my lap and just started crying the biggest tears I've ever seen, without making a sound. It was adorable and heartbreaking at the same time. I never found out what was so troubling, but apparently it was nothing a Jolly Rancher from my pocket couldn't fix.
I've been having a great time with Trinity students, as well. I'm also making great friends among the staff there. Sam, one of the English teachers, is giving me Rukiga lessons. That is the local language. I can now count to ten and am learning the days of the week. Yay me! Mostly, I spend my days there grading papers, going to classes, hanging out with students, and doing Bible studies. Thursday was the team's last day in Kabale, and KTC had a goodbye cermemony for them that evening. At the very end, the entire student body sang God Be With You Till We Meet Again, and I got so incredibly sad just thinking about it being my turn to leave soon. I may feel differently in three weeks time, but the thought of leaving is quite the unhappy one. Of course, I miss my friends and family at home, but that does not make saying goodbye to Kabale any easier.
The team was doing a few days of touring after they left Kabale, and invited me to join. Insisted, that I join is maybe more accurate! Not that I mind at all; the few days off will be, and have been so far, very nice. I think it will be a nice way to step back, evaluate the last month, and prepare for the next one. We traveled to Queen Elizabeth National Park on Friday, which took pretty much all day. The resort is absolutely lovely. Hot showers! Yummy food! Gorgeous views! As much as I enjoy this taste of familiar things, it's also true that my cravings for familiarity are only as strong as I let them be. I only "need" Wheat Thins as much as I tell myself I do.
So, my "vacation" began with an early morning safari today! It was fun. Epic fun. Basically, I sat on the roof of a Land Rover driving all over the savannah this morning. We saw elephants, which I was insanely excited about, because, this being my third time in Africa and all, you'd think I'd have seen one before now. That was very cool. There were also plenty of water buffalo, gazelles, warthogs, water bucks, and deer. The hilight of the trip was definitely the lion, though. He was there maybe 50 yards off the trail, sitting on top of a termite hill overgrown with foliage. We convinced our guide to drive around him so we could see better. Just below him was his morning's kill. Even from our vantage of about ten yards, he was quite intimidating! He looked quite the king of his domain. So, that was quite the experience. Also, there are mongooses (mongeese?) that run around the resort like squirrels. You can pet them, too. This evening we are taking a boat tour of Lake Edward, where there are lots of hippos. Tomorrow we travel to Jinja, where we will white water raft on the Nile River. I'm super excited for that. This is quite the adventurous weekend! As much fun as I am having, it will also be great to get back to Kabale, and continue my work there.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Spider Saga continues, and other stories

It was back the very next night. The very same spider, that is. It was bigger than I remembered, too. I think it was waiting for me. This time I was seriously concerned. I had no acceptable killing implements. I couldn’t just ignore it. Was this to be a nightly thing? I left the bathroom to consider my options and ended up doing what any logical female would do: I called my boyfriend. Never mind the fact that he was 5000 miles away. Despite the advice to “just kill it” I decided to wait it out and hope another family member would stumble upon the spider. A few minutes later, I heard the definite sounds of arachnid assassination coming from the bathroom. Later I found out it was Joan. How did she slay it? By “pouring hot water on it.” The way she said it, it was the most obvious thing in the world. And that is how I shamelessly and remorselessly made an eight year old kill a spider for me.
(Ok, so before you think I’m completely ridiculous, I DIDN’T call Erik for the sole purpose of seeking spider advice. Seriously. I promise. Although I may or may not have asked him to come take care of it for me.)
I am having a great time with the Bible study- something I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet. There are twenty or so students that I meet with weekly. I had wanted to have smaller groups, but logistically it would just be too tough to work out. This term (the second out of three) is the busiest for the students, what with district exams and competitions. So, we’re going through I Peter. I’ve been learning a lot, and have been challenged a lot by the people studying it with me. As expected, I did most of the talking the first time. I would love to move away from the whole teacher/student thing, and hopefully that can happen some more as we get more comfortable with each other. I am really excited about this, have been getting lots of positive feedback, and hope that it keeps going well.
On my walk through town today, I was struck by how many scenes of everyday life here are so tragic. I saw a little boy, maybe seven, holding a half empty bottle of alcohol. Kids playing beside overflowing bins of rotting garbage and algae filled ditches. Men spending their days in bars while, just outside, women sell old, worn out pairs of shoes on the roadside to earn some money. I’ve only been here for a month, and it’s easy to just glance at these things and see them as “just the way it is here.” That’s not right. At the same time, I don’t want to look at these things and see tragedies; I want to see people. I want to love people like Jesus loves them- the little boy in the ditch and the drunk in the bar alike. I am praying for fresh perspective and a renewed heart each day, and hope that you might pray for me, too.
The group from Modesto has just arrived (“the Rick’s” as they are referred to by Connie), and it’s been fun having friends here. And thank you, Mom, for the unexpected box of deliciousness!! I was also sent several boxes of macaroni and cheese, one of which I made for the family last night. It was a pretty big hit. Everybody just mixed it right in with their beans and matoke, though, instead of eating it as a separate dish. So, it's been good to have some familiarity around. Tomorrow is the halfway mark of my trip...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Let's try this again...

So, I had a whole post written, and, of course, the power went out before I could publish it.
I had a great weekend! Saturday was the inter-house track and field competition for Trinity. I was an official recorder. It was lots of fun. Sunday, I hung out with friends who came down from Kampala. That's about a seven hour bus ride on a poorly paved road. Not fun. But we had a great time. We went to a "pork joint." As the name would imply, the only thing served it pork, barbequed. Basically, they are log and tin shacks with dirt floors and chickens roaming around. Probably (definitely) not FDA approved, but so good! You order by the kilo, and it is served on a platter to be eaten communally.
Last night I had my first run-in with African arachnids. This one was in the bathroom, spotted as I was getting ready to shower. It was about the same size as a daddy long leg, but probably twice as thick. I was too afraid to kill it (chances were, it would put up a fight) so I just kept a wary eye on it, my pile of clothes, and the painfully large crack under my door. That night I made sure my misquito net went all the way down to the floor on all sides of my bed. :)
I'm wishing I could think of more notable things to update on, but, of course, my mind goes blank as soon as I sit down at a computer. I am nearly at the halfway point of my trip, and can't believe this first month went by so fast! It has been great so far, and I'm praying that the next one is too.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Life is good on my side of the world! I'm starting to feel really comfortable here; less like a tourist and more like a resident (however short term). For example, today I gave some Spanish tourists a resturaunt recommendation. Also, today has been the first day where I have not been driven anywhere by car. All transportation has either been by foot or bicycle boda boda (taxi). So, I am feeling rather pleased with myself.
I have been having a great time at Akaniyjuka teaching English. Sometimes I will hang out there with the kids on my evenings, too. Those kids are just beyond precious! I wore a locket there once, and ever since it has become their favorite thing. Whenever I don't wear it now, they always ask where it is. Too cute. I've also really been enjoying my time at Trinity. I've been teaching more English classes, and the fellowship I will be leading with the students starts tomorrow. I've really enjoyed getting to know people well and build relationships this trip. People here have some amazing stories.
I've been having a great time settling in with my Ugandan family. Joan, who is eight, loves to do my hair after I shower. Whenever she does it, she calls it her "salon of buzungu." She's a fun kid. Joab was in Kampala recently, and he brough home a kitten with him. It's to catch the mouse that has been scurrying around the house. Anyways, Joan is scared ot the thing. It's reall funny.
The power was out in the village for almost a week, but it came back on yesterday. So, it's been cold bucket showers for me. It gets really hard to see around twilight, before the generator is turned on. I'm pretty sure that I drank hot milk with sugar instead of tea the other night. But have I mentioned how much I love it that I am expected to drink at least four cups of tea daily here? Awesome.
Yesterday, Sunday, was the "initiation" of S1 and S5 students. It is the official welcoming of the incoming classes. Of course, it was a day of full Trinity pagentry, complete with songs, traditional dances, speeches, and a brass band parade. It was a lot of fun.
So, things here are going well. I have yet to get really, truly homesick. Actually, I was told yesterday by a British missionary here that after you stay in Kabale for about two or three months, you never want to leave. Guess I'm in trouble... :)

Monday, June 1, 2009

I'M ALIVE! I PROMISE! I am settled at last in Kabale. Internet connection is rather (by rather I mean extremely) hard to find, thus the late update. Sorry, no pictures this time around. There is only one plae in town with wireless internet and I am unfortunately not there. All is well, though. It feels amazing to be back! I can’t wait to settle into a steady routine here now. Because it’s hard for me to find interwebs these days, I’ve decided to make a running post throughout the week and upload the whole thing from a flash drive whenever I can. Thus, extremely long posts!
So, Paris. A.Maz.Ing. What an awesome adventure. My one mishap of the day happened almost immediately, so I suppose it was good to get that out of the way. I missed my very first metro stop, on the express train, so another stop did not come for a while. As a metro newbie, this was a small ordeal, especially hauling 100 pounds of baggage with me! I kept my humor though, and found my way back without too much trouble. Aside from that, the day went quite smoothly, and I am now a huge fan of Paris’s metro system.
The first thing I did was visit the Louvre! (That statement demands an exclamation point.) Wow. The museum itself is a work of art. It is massive! And the glass pyramid! Don’t even get me started. I loved it all. Unfortunately I did not get to spend much time there because there was a free walking tour I wanted to go on. It was lots of fun; very informative. I did not take the full tour though, because as soon as we go to the Louvre, I, of course had to go inside again. I saw all the standards: Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Nike of Sacramothe, etc. There is way too much to say about the Louvre, so you will just have to ask me about it when I get back. After that, I walked along the Seine to Notre Dame. Beautiful. The inside was just as amazing. There was a service going on, and Latin chanting + pipe organ + Gothic architecture = maximum creepy awesomeness. After this, I ordered some crepes confiture and ate them in the shadow of the cathedral. Is that not the ultimate Parisian experience? After this, I was truly exhausted, as I was running on very little sleep and had been walking all day. But what is a trip to Paris without visiting the Eiffel Tower? While still in the city, it is actually quite a distance from everything else. It was lovely, of course. After my 30 minute metro ride back to my hostel I was somewhat revived, so I just meandered through my hostel’s neighborhood, along one of the Seine’s canals. It was nice to see a non-touristy side of Paris. I returned to my hostel, showered, ate, and crashed. I have decided I like hostels. I like the international feel of them. Actually, I met somebody from Modesto there! Small world!
The next morning, I took the metro back to the airport, and resumed my journey. My last flight, from Nairobi, Kenya to Kigali, Rwanda was delayed, and then combined with one to Burundi, so I did not arrive in Kigali until around 4 AM. Needless to say, I was quite tired after all of this. Charles (one of Joab’s friends, and mine too now) still graciously picked me up and took me to the room I had booked. A few short hours later, Joab returned with Charles to pick me up, and I enjoyed the chance to get to know Charles a little better; he is a very interesting guy. I am now Auntie to his six adopted kids!
It felt so great to finally get back in to Kabale and see the familiar sights and friends. Joel and Joan (Joab and Connie’s kids) have gotten so big! There are so many new buildings up on the new KTC campus! Everything looks wonderful. Joab and the staff have been very busy getting ready for the term. Monday was the students’ registration day and classes began Tuesday. I am eager to find my niche here, which is slowly but surely happening.
This week, I have been sitting in on different classes, and teaching, as well as doing the odd work project. As far as teaching classes goes, I am loving it. There is a bit of a language barrier, but as long as I speak slowly, I am usually understood. Mostly, I have been in English classes, my comfort zone, if you will. I am finding out where I will best fit in around here. Starting next week, I will most likely have a set program for my stay, which will include teaching, leading Bible studies, secretarial work, and whatever else is needed at the moment. Also this week, I have been to the Akanijuka (He is able) Children’s Home, where I am also teaching English. I will be there for three mornings a week. These kids are aged around four to twelve, and as precious as they could possibly be. David and Kathryn (a young Australian couple who run the orphanage) are very nice people. So, I’m having a great time here in Kabale so far. It has been so great to see familiar faces around here, and to begin building new friendships. Actually, I've had fun making friends with people from all over the word: France, Ireland, Japan, Australia.
This past weekend, I hiked up to Lake Bunyoni with some of the KTC staff. Bunyoni is the deepest lake in Uganda at 6,500 feet. More than a mile! And it is possibly one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. It is surrounded by beautiful green terraced hills and has many islands. Lovely. The best part, though, was seeing Edith on our way into town! (Edith was one of the first friends I made in Kabale in 2004, and my family actually sponsored her education for several years. She has endured a lot of hardship in her life, and is still overcoming.)It was immediately decided that she would join us, and we had a great time catching up. She is an amazing person. On our way back in to town, I quickly stopped at her house to say hi to Edith's mom and to meet Edith's daughter Joan at last. She's adorable!
I’ve really enjoyed getting a taste of Ugandan life. One of the main differences is, of course, the food. A few mornings ago, I came out of my room to find corn on the cob on my plate for breakfast. Most meals will include either posho (a maize based substance best described as looking like mashed potatoes and tasting like nothing) or matoke (mashed and steamed plantains). Goat is the most common meat, which, it turns out, I really genuinely like. Dinner is almost never eaten before 9:00 PM. The other night, I had a great time in the kitchen with Connie. She showed me how to make chapatti, a sort of flatbread. So delicious. Also, it was requested that I make an American dish, so I cooked pasta with garlic sauce and tomatoes and peppers. People seemed to like it, although you never know when someone is just being polite.
Currently, the most popular evening entertainment is Uno. I brought the game with me and taught Joab’s family how to play, something we have done every night for a good solid hour or two. Instead of saying “uno” when you’re down to one card though, it is now common practice to say “I am remaining with one.” I love it.
It has been raining off and on for the past few days here, something I realized, hypothetically, could be problematic when driving almost exclusively on dirt roads. It becomes quite literally a problem though, when the tiny pickup you are driving uphill on a steep dirt road in the rain stalls and begins to slide back down. I was wondering if I should bail, and Joab was just laughing. T.I.A. On the plus side, the weather is quite nice when not raining. It is very moderate, and the rain makes the already impossibly green hills look absolutely luminous.
So far, I’ve loved being here without a group. It is an entirely different experience. The students at KTC seem much less shy when there is only one of you and many of them. Everywhere I go, I here murmurs of “muzungu” (white person), to which I respond with a grin and an “agandi” (how are you?) which gets an even bigger laugh. Everyone is very interested in my family and life in California. I’ve truly enjoyed getting to know everyone, and have met more people than whose names I can possibly remember.
So, that is about a week's worth of updating. God is incredibly gracious, and already I am learning so much about Him as well as myself. As always, your prayers are welcomed! Please pray that I am able to see His will for me here and use every opportunity to serve for His glory. Sorry for the word-heavy, picture-light post, but with the internet as it is, posting pictures is quite the chore. Ask me to show them to you when I get back! I love you all!